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Pene and Burbridge-Smith close out Crankworx N.Z. with dual wins

2021 race season comes to a close with final Summer Series event

Crankworx Summer Series N.Z. Wanaka Dual Slalom Photo by: Chris Case / Crankworx

After a huge year of racing around the world – 27 events in eight locations on three continents – Crankworx wrapped up its 2021 season in New Zealand. The Wānaka Dual Slalom was the final event of Crankworx Summer Series New Zealand.

Tuhoto-Ariki Pene took the final win of the year on home soil, while Australia’s Harriet Burbidge-Smith landed the women’s victory.

Highlights: Wānaka Dual Slalom – Crankworx Summer Series NZ

To take his win, Pene has to out dual two of the sport’s top riders, and two Crankworx Kings. In the semi-final, he faced fellow Kiwi and past King of Crankworx, Sam Blenkinsop.

“We…dropped in and we were both yelling at each other on the first straight, having a good laugh while we were racing,” Pene of head-to-head with Blenki. “We were both just pushing as hard as we could. It was good fun. Loved it.”

Pene came out on top, but Blenkinsop put up a fight. Fun and fast mix well, and the two Kiwi’s were racing hard while still having a good time.

“I’m not here to muck around,” Blenki said of mixing good times and fast racing. “I like to do my best, and that’s all I was doing. Obviously I’m pretty stoked to get third today. I felt like I was pretty close to Tuhoto in the semis. We were yelling at each other down the first straight. It was so funny. I was like ‘Oi, I’ve got you, boy.’ I had him on the first straight so I was real stoked with that, but then I fully forgot about the turns and went inside the turns. I was just stoked to beat him on the first straight, so that was my win.”

After advancing past Blenkinsop, who would win his race for third, Pene faced current King and dual slalom specialist, Bas van Steenbergen. Again, the young Rotorua rider pulled off the upset.

“Yeah nah, I was happy with it,” added the Rotorua rider, who beat van Steenbergen by a narrow margin after two race runs. “Bas is always fast and he’s a strong rider. I just had that little bit left in the tank and gave it shit. Happy as.”

For Pene, it means ending a long season of mixing Crankworx and World Cup downhill on a high note.

“It felt amazing eh,” said Pene of upsetting the King. “I was just like ‘it’s the last race so I’m just going to give everything I’ve got, you know. It’s the last race of the season and it’s been a long season so yeah, I just wanted to give it everything. Lucky enough to take the win. I was like ‘yooo.’”

Crankworx Summer Series N.Z. Wanaka Dual Slalom
Photo: Clint Trahan / Crankworx

Crankworx goes full circle for Burbidge-Smith

For Harriett Burbidge-Smith, the season ended where it began way back in Innsbruck: on the top step of the podium.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Burbidge-Smith of starting and ending her season with dual slalom wins. “I thought that this morning, that it would be pretty cool to end it the same way. It’s pretty much how this year took off for me, and how it ended, so it’s cool.”

The Australian bested Olympian Caroline Buchanan by 1.387 seconds to take the win.

“I think I was super comfy on the track, I think I only did like one run this morning in practice, and that was it,” Burbidge-Smith confidence in Wanaka. “I wanted to save my energy. And I knew the whole time that I had it dialed, and the only way I wasn’t going to win was if I made a mistake. In the first few runs I was going a little too hard and made a few small mistakes, and then Mikey [Haderer] talked to me and said ‘Chill out.’ So for the final with Caroline I actually chilled out more, and it went a bit smoother, so that was cool.”

Buchanan takes silver with Jenna Hastings rounding out a very solid string of Crankworx results in third.

With Crankworx wrapped up for 2021, athletes have a moment to rest before looking forward to 2022.